GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Rescue crews in Golden on Tuesday evening got what might be their only chance to practice swiftwater rescues on Clear Creek before they are called to do the real thing.
“If anybody fell in there without a life preserver on or a helmet or the proper gear like we wear they are going to be taken down the river extremely fast,” said Golden Fire Department spokeswoman Capt. Jeanette Kehoe, referring to the swiftly moving river.
Kehoe said anyone who falls in Clear Creek right now while it’s flowing near its peak has only a very narrow window of time to act.
“They’ll have only a few seconds to be able rescue themselves and then hypothermia is going to take over. The force of the water is going to take over. It’s going to be extremely dangerous,” she said.
Members of the Golden Fire Department’s rescue team wore flotation devices and other safety gear as they one by one jumped into the river which is running high with spring runoff. Their teammates on the shores then threw rope lines at them with flotation tubes attached to pull them in.
They also set up a rope system with an inflatable boat, a common tool used during technical water rescues.
When it comes to emergencies on the creek, in a few seconds a small rescue can become a massive search spanning several miles if a single mistake is made. Crews hope the training will make their work more efficient when there are emergencies.
Kehoe also said last fall’s flooding has changed the riverway, making the training all that much more important.
“Our swift water team knows this canyon very, very well. But a lot of things have shifted,” she said. “We’re trying to prepare to get to know this river again and to find out what kind of debris is coming down and where our hazards are and where our access points are if people needs rescuing.”